It was Thursday, September 27th, 2012, just five days ago, when the Texas Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics 9-7 to take a four-game lead in the American League West division over the Athletics with just six games left to be played. Since then, the Rangers dropped two of three to the Angels, the A’s swept the Mariners, and now the A’s have taken the first two games of the final three of the season against the Rangers. All that adds up to the Rangers lead in the AL West having completely vanished, as the two teams sit gridlocked headed into one final game to decide who is crowned the division winner, and who is an AL Wild Card team.
The Rangers had been the sole leaders of the AL West since April 9th, just three games into the 2012 season. Prior to Tuesday, their lead had not been less than two games since April 13th. And now, they enter the last game of the season playing a one-game playoff to avoid having to play the one-game Wild Card playoff. While the Rangers are still guaranteed a spot in the postseason, a loss in Game 162 would be the capper of a season-ending collapse that was as unlikely as either of the historic collapses we witnessed in the 2011 season.
These two teams trajectories for the season are moving in complete opposite directions. The Rangers have stumbled to the finish line after being a dominant force all year, while the Athletics have gone from nobodies, to underdogs, to contenders, and now to finishers. After it was the Athletics who celebrated clinching a playoff berth last night on the field in front of the Rangers and deep into the night, it was the Rangers who looked exhausted on Tuesday night, and the Athletics who looked re-motivated. The 2011 Rangers finished their season by not losing back-to-back games for two months. The 2012 Rangers are finishing their season having lost back-to-back games four different times in their last 12 games.
The Athletics are the Cinderella story of the year, and instead of going to the ball, they walked right over to the heavyweight champ and punched him in the mouth. The Rangers haven’t shown the same stomach for the fight. They will have one last chance to do so with the whole season on the line tomorrow, in a coin flip game that feels like it is being played with a coin with an “A” on both sides.
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